It is fall semester again and that can only mean one thing – men’s soccer is back. After placing fifth in the America East Conference, UMBC then took eventual champions Albany to double overtime in the playoffs before losing on penalties. Now-departed midfielder Sammy Kahsai scored late to give UMBC a chance to win that game, but Albany keeper Danny Vitiello foiled the Retrievers in the shootout. There was a sense that the team was good enough to achieve more last year, after playing ranked opponents well in the first half of the year, but they eventually fell short of their goal to win the America East championship.
UMBC men’s soccer garnered a huge following last year, breaking the attendance record twice and being named the ninth best place to watch soccer in the country by NCAA fan polls. 2,873 fans attended the Retrievers’ 3-0 win over Howard’s Bisons, a record broken a month later by the 3,766 fans that saw the Retrievers tie number one team Maryland Terrapins 1-1. UMBC also ranked fourteenth in NCAA national attendance. The Retrievers were ranked the sixteenth best team in Soccer America’s Top 25 poll in October. So, the Retrievers will be looking to build upon their sporadic success from last season.
“UMBC’s men’s soccer team is comprised of very talented team players, [who are] always providing us with high quality and action-packed soccer matches,” Shawn Kros, CEO of Arc NCR, said of UMBC’s soccer program. “UMBC’s commitment to [the Kicks for Chase] game shows their true support for their community and for people with differing abilities.”
This summer, senior-defender Tom Paul and senior-midfielders Kahsai, Gregg Hauck and Cormac Noel left the team. In exchange, players like freshman-goalie Quantrell Jones, freshman-forward Jackson Becher and sophomore-forward Cesare Marconi have been added. Jones, a Baltimore native, Becher, a Pennsylvanian, and the Italian Marconi have come into the team certainly hoping to make an impact.
The team started the season perfectly. They defeated Temple’s Owls 1-0 in the opening game of the season. They won 3-2 against Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights after an impressive comeback, in front of 2,828 fans, the third largest crowd in Retriever history. They also defeated College of Charleston’s Cougars 3-0, lost 2-0 to Air Force’s Falcons, and defeated Navy’s Midshipmen 2-0.
Of UMBC’s rivals in America East conference play, only UMass Lowell has been able to better the Retrievers’ good start. The Retrievers are currently tied for second in the standings with New Hampshire and Vermont, while Hartford’s Hawks are still winless.
“[Last year] was a big improvement from the year before,” Coach Caringi said of the Retrievers’ performance last year. “The team last year played the toughest schedule of any UMBC [except] 2014. Three top 15 opponents. By the end, we were playing well. We played well enough to win [in the Albany game] in the end, which is all you can ask for.”
“There’s more of a chemistry in the group [this year],” Caringi said about his current team. “I want to carry over the success and experience from last year. You only get better playing better teams. There’s still an adjustment with this group as far as playing all-out attacking soccer. Jon Bell is injured, one of the best players on the team, and Dylan Poetzel [defender] also. The hard part is changing the players around while playing good teams.”
“Obviously [I am expecting big things from Cesar] Marco and Jackson Becher, who scored 100 goals in high school,” Caringi said on his expectations. “Also [from] Jon Bell, McCalla and Alejandro, but they got injured. Tre Pulliam and Colin Weyant have played here for three years. I’m hoping that their experience would pay off.”
“A lot of other programs have learnt [sic] from us,” Caringi said on UMBC’s competitors. “From 2010 – 2014, we were the best team in AE. They’ve invested in their programs and there’s been an influx of good foreign players. Soccer is [now] as high as number three RPI overall.”